The Jerusalem Post

Is the biblical ark of the covenant hidden in an Ethiopian church?

  (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)

Researchers claim ark hidden for 3,000 years in Ethiopia.

Where is the Ark of the Covenant, the vessel that, according to Jewish tradition and the Bible, safeguarded the Tablets of the Covenant?

The gold-coated ark adorned with a gold wreath once resided in the First Temple until the Babylonian army's destruction in 587 BC. While records don't mention its fate, it's improbable that such a sacred and precious object disappeared unnoticed.

So, did it survive the destruction, and if so, where does it rest today?

The ark, also known as the Ark of God or the Ark of the Testimony, was positioned within the Holy of Holies in the First Temple. It held immense significance, described as the primary "seat of the Shekinah," and it hasn't been seen since the First Temple's ruin.

Sages hold two opinions on its whereabouts.


Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Shimon believe the ark was taken to Babylon and destroyed, while Rabbi Yehuda claims it remained in the temple's confines but was later relocated and rediscovered elsewhere. The Ark of the Covenant's location remains a mystery that scholars, adventurers, rabbis, and enthusiasts have sought for over 2,000 years.

A peculiarly shaped stone unearthed years ago in the ruins of an ancient temple near Jerusalem raises the possibility that it may be the "great stone" upon which the Ark of the Covenant rested, housing the sacred Tablets of the Covenant.

On the other hand, a substantial number of Bible scholars propose that the ark's final resting place is a church in Ethiopia. They assert that it was clandestinely transported there from Israel during the reign of King Manasseh of Judah (697 BC to 642 BC), and it has remained hidden there for 3,000 years, meticulously guarded by virginal nuns.

For millennia, the ark's whereabouts, said to possess magical powers and bring death to those who touch it, have been enigmatic. Ethiopian Christians contend that the Ark of the Covenant resides in a chapel within the small town of Axum, where they believe it arrived nearly three millennia ago, watched over by a group of nuns who are forbidden to leave the chapel until their demise.


A report by Fox News suggests that the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum houses one of the world's most coveted biblical relics, including the Ten Commandments and Aaron's "staff of miracles."

Numerous Torah scholars are convinced that the Ark of the Covenant was covertly transported from its original resting place beneath the Temple Mount all the way to Africa, carried by Jews expelled from Israel during Manasseh's rule. Since its disappearance, multiple theories about its location have surfaced, including submersion in the Sea of Galilee, concealment beneath the Temple Mount's foundation, surrender to the Americans, and the increasingly supported claim of its presence in Ethiopia.

According to the Bible, the Israelites crafted the Ark of the Covenant in the Sinai desert after leaving Egypt. Its vanishing coincided with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BC.

One account narrates how the Jordan River stood still as priests carrying the ark crossed it, while other stories describe its role in battles where its mystical powers aided the Israelites. When captured by the Philistines, the ark's presence caused outbreaks of tumors and diseases, compelling them to return it to the Israelites. Some tales even mention death befalling anyone who touched or gazed upon the ark.

As mentioned earlier, certain researchers propose that the Ark of the Covenant traveled extensively before ultimately reaching ancient Israel.

According to the Maccabees, it was concealed in a cave on Mount Nebo by the prophet Jeremiah. In Hasmoneans 2, it is recounted how Jeremiah discovered a hidden cave on the mountain and buried the Ark of the Covenant, admonishing exiles not to mark its location until God reunites His people from exile and returns them to their homeland.

Another narrative, currently gaining credence, asserts that the Ark of the Covenant found its way to Ethiopia and now resides in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. According to this belief, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians transported it to Axum through Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel, after Jerusalem's fall in 586/587 BC and the destruction of Solomon's Temple.

Britons also claim the ark's possession, with one theory proposing that the Knights Templar, also known as the Order of the Knights of Solomon's Temple, discovered it in Jebel al-Madhbah in Petra, potentially the biblical Mount Sinai. Some legends suggest the Templars hid the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, while another theory suggests British Baron Ralph de Sudeley, known for generous religious donations, transported it to his estate at Temple (temple) Hardwick. Notably, this location is currently owned by the British Ministry of Defense and is securely sealed.

To this day, no definitive historical theory exists about the Ark's fate, with some researchers even questioning its initial existence.

Curious to find out?

You'll need to wait, as Jewish sources prophesy the ark's revelation near the coming of the messiah. The Ramban wrote that it will be unveiled "in the building of the house or in the future wars before the messianic king."